May 16, 2013

Japanese Breakfast

By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Image by K. Blueice

“Never eat anything for breakfast you wouldn’t eat for dinner.” 

This great advice was served to Jeffrey Ozawa, or Gorumando, along with a traditional Japanese breakfast one morning in the Japanese countryside. One by one, a little old woman in a little pink kimono dished up the traditional Japanese dishes of rice, pickles, green tea, miso soup, and broiled fish. A perfect, traditional morning routine.

Breakfasts in other cultures have long intrigued me (partly because I’m so resistant to our own Lucky Charms and pancakes variety) but the Japanese breakfast holds a peculiar fascination: it’s like they skipped breakfast and went straight on to lunch.

Not too long ago, a friend took her little girls to Japan. Even when they weren’t enjoying all the beautiful pastries Japan offers today, the traditional miso soup and rice breakfasts went over pretty well with her daughters. The sometimes-raw fish… not so much, but the bento-box like offerings of a traditional Japanese breakfast are just as delicious in the morning as they are at lunch or, according to the little old lady in the little pink kimono, dinner.

When it comes to traditional offerings, this is a far cry from the Italian cornetto dipped in espresso or the French croissant and cafe au lait. These dainty little forays into the devilishly good dessert-like breakfasts stand in stark contrast to the health-conscious, arguably good-for-you version native to Japan.

German breakfast is another anomaly. For a savory-fanatic like me, it’s the stuff of legend. Cheeses, jams, smoked fish, cured meats, fruits, every seeded bread you can imagine… breakfast just doesn’t get much better than that. Neither does lunch or dinner, for that matter. (If you tell me a man cannot live on bread and cheese alone, I might concur. But add in some cured salami, and I could live happily for a lifetime.)

But for all that’s different, the German breakfast and the Japanese breakfast have one thing in common: they are both a taste of the rest of the day. And if you’re anything like me, a taste of what’s to come is the best way to get happy about a new day. Especially if it’s served with salami.

After all, salami really is just as delicious at dinner.

Tell me: What’s your favorite breakfast? Are you an oatmeal nut, or can you be appeased by a piece of leftover pizza from last night? Would you enjoy the traditional Japanese breakfast or German breakfast more?

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Heidi May 16, 2013 at 8:53 am

I’m definitely a savory girl. Pancakes, waffles, french toast: meh. I love fried rice with eggs for breakfast with lots of garlic, green onions and soy sauce. And I’ve been guilty of giving my kids (per their request) leftover cold pizza-we call it “college breakfast.”


2 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 16, 2013 at 8:58 am

Heidi – I grew up on cold, dead pizza (as we call it) and have turned into a brussels sprout fanatic. So I don’t think you’re doing your kids any harm. : ) Plus, it’s dairy, wheat, and fruit! Total win!


3 JeanneW May 17, 2013 at 12:40 am

“College breakfast”

That made me laugh. Awesome!!!


4 Amy May 19, 2013 at 12:57 pm

I am so doing this with my kids.


5 Angela May 16, 2013 at 9:05 am

It’s always been funny to me how some foods are arbitrarily deemed to be “breakfast.” I was in China last fall and the breakfast buffets always had lots of noodle dishes, steamed barbecue buns and eggrolls alongside pancakes and bacon and other things obviously put out for westerners. It was funny to watch Chinese and western guests at my hotel choose what you’d pretty much guess they would.


6 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 16, 2013 at 10:11 am

steamed barbecue buns for breakfast?!?! sold!


7 Kristen E May 16, 2013 at 9:32 am

Ever since I was a kid, I’d heat up last night’s leftovers for breakfast. None of the people in my family (including my husband) get it – they think I’m a weirdo. But I’d much rather have leftover stir fry for breakfast than pancakes. I do like eggs, and often make home fries or hash or something on the weekends, but I definitely prefer dinner-for-breakfast!


8 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 16, 2013 at 10:11 am

Team Savory unite!


9 Christy@SweetandSavoring May 16, 2013 at 9:57 am

Nice post! I love French toast, but for some reason our usual homemade breakfasts are waffles, or eggs, or oatmeal. I also love making Dutch baby pancakes, they are a new favorite (especially with berries on top!).

However, there’s nothing like a good diner breakfast :)


10 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 16, 2013 at 10:14 am

I love Dutch baby pancakes, too. And a diner breakfast is so great… the hashbrowns!


11 Chase @ The Smell of Summer May 16, 2013 at 10:27 am

I love both sweet and savory things for breakfast. Really depends on the day. Some days I’m happy with some ham or eggs, other times I’m in the mood for something sweet like pancakes.

Chase Miller
The Smell of Summer – A Boutique Lifestyle Blog


12 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 16, 2013 at 10:35 am

Both options sound delicious, Chase!


13 candace hendrick May 16, 2013 at 11:05 am

I am a North American living in South Korea and their breakfast fascinates me as well. South Korean breakfasts are very similar to Japanese but they have Kimchi and veggie and tofu side dishes as well. All 3 meals look the same they don’t seem to differentiate them at all. They do buy cereals but they put them on ice cream or red bean and shaved ice thing.


14 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 16, 2013 at 1:33 pm

i LOVE that red bean and shaved ice dessert. there was a korean place not far from me in jersey city. their breakfasts sound delicious – especially the veggie!


15 Valerie J. May 16, 2013 at 11:28 am

I love anything salty in the morning. My husband sometimes makes miso for us(his family lived in Japan for a bit). When I was growing up in the Caribbean, my grand-pa would make some grilled fish( a tiny sword Fisk looking fish that we called ‘balarou’) and cucumber with hot pepper salad for us in the morning. We would eat it with some warm fresh bread.
I agree though on the savory: cheese, dry sausage, cornichons, bread, jams and pâté are things I could live on.


16 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 16, 2013 at 1:37 pm

I can’t eat fish, but that breakfast sounds so delicious – and refreshing! Like a nice wake-up!


17 Amy3 May 16, 2013 at 11:53 am

As a kid I really didn’t like typical Western breakfast fare. As a teen I’d have a hotdog every day! I’ve come around to Western breakfast foods, especially eggs (which I hated), but I’m pretty firmly in the savory camp. Visiting Indonesia I totally adored that they simply served foods they’d serve at any other meal for breakfast. Right up my alley!


18 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 16, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Anything that works for dinner!


19 Jess Shuster May 16, 2013 at 11:59 am

I am WITH you on the German breakfast. I attended a German Language Camp (Waldsee – in MN) as a child and we ate German food for the duration. My favorite was breakfast. I still go with savory over sweet most mornings. What is better than a hard roll with salami and a hard boiled egg?


20 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 16, 2013 at 1:38 pm



21 Starr May 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Funny, I read that quote & immediately thought, “The best dinners are what I eat for breakfast when I have the time.” My kids loves breakfast-for-supper, German pancakes being in heavy rotation.


22 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Back to the Germans. They certainly did get pancakes right, that’s for sure. My favorite pancakes are from the Original Pancake House – there are a few locations, mostly in the South. The OPH’s original location was their culinary breakfast home for my parents before they had me, and their pancakes – deep, thick, and full of apples – remain my favorite Westernized sweet, be it at breakfast, lunch, or dinner.


23 KG May 16, 2013 at 12:39 pm

I loved the breakfasts we were served on a trip to Turkey – feta, tomatoes, good yogurt + honey, yum!!! I also adore pho and wish I could have it for breakfast, which I understand is traditional in Vietnam.


24 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 16, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Pho for breakfast! I wish NYC had a Pho for Breakfast truck. Or at least I wish they had one before we moved last year. I would have eaten there daily.


25 Ltg May 16, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Oh, somebody beat me to Turkish breakfasts! I grew up with it and it’s what we have with my own family (we live in the US): Black tea, bread, butter, jams/honey, feta or other cheese, olives, tomato, cucumbers, usually eggs too. I leave one or two out at a time, but this is what we eat on a daily basis (we totally have it for dinner, if i feel lazy to cook:))


26 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 16, 2013 at 1:41 pm

that sounds completely delicious! i think we’ll have to try turkish breakfast at our house one day. if someone could just help me master the ins and outs of turkish dumplings, i’d be forever indebted!


27 Elisabeth O May 16, 2013 at 1:30 pm

I seem to be in the minority here, but I love most typical American breakfast foods, for any meal (minus cold cereal and poptarts)! I love a hearty “farmer’s” breakfast- eggs, bacon, toast, french toast, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, cream of wheat, bagel, etc., etc. (although not all of those at once!). I’ll often have eggs or hash browns for lunch, and I’m not at all opposed to breakfast-for-dinner (so long as it’s not cold cereal).


28 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm

you are not alone AT ALL. if my husband weren’t in afghanistan, he’d be commenting on this and giving you gold stars, a thumbs up, friends-forever kind of comment here : ) i am a sucker for bagels (any time of day) and eggs benedict happens to be one of my favorite meals, whenever, wherever. but a farmer’s breakfast is his cup of tea, too… and think of it this way, the more of us like savory, german and turkish style breakfasts, the more food you have left on your plate as we’re not asking for just a taste!


29 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 16, 2013 at 1:43 pm

(is it ever just a taste? no. never.)


30 Jenny May 16, 2013 at 2:30 pm

My husband has been in Indonesia for a month and he was not prepared for breakfast, lunch and dinner all being interchangeable. I am an American, sweet carb loving breakfast girl although I wouldn’t turn down a German one. My Father-in-Law thinks fried rice is the best breakfast food ever and I still maintain that is totally weird.


31 farfromhomemama May 17, 2013 at 2:44 am

We’ve lived in Switzerland for close to seven years now and are huge converts to the Swiss/German breakfast. It’s a savoury-lovers delight. Hams, salamis, cheeses, breads – and better if you can take an hour to enjoy it rather than rush.


32 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 17, 2013 at 7:36 am



33 Cheryl Markel May 17, 2013 at 7:10 am

Buckets of green tea and a boiled egg. Much more, and I feel weighted down. However, miso on a snowy morning is pretty fantastic! The Japanese have a good approach, in my opinion!


34 BreakfastBonanza May 17, 2013 at 9:12 am

And don’t forget the Original Pancake House’s cheddar cheese omlette: it defines fluffy; it’s like its a member of the finely-textured souffle family.

Enhance this ‘lil gem with some grilled tomato slices (fresh cracked pepper and sea salt, please), a medley of black berries and raspberries, rye toast (yup, with butter), and a nice chunk of Smithfield ham. That’s a Breakfast Bonanza for me.

Love this post and all the great ideas for breakfast-is-dinner-is-breakfast.


35 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 17, 2013 at 9:46 am

yes yes yes!!! the cheddar cheese omelette!


36 Donna May 17, 2013 at 9:29 am

Traditional Japanese breakfasts are my idea of an ideal breakfast! At an onsen (hot springs) I visited once, they served a breakfast with 22 small dishes (smaller than the ones pictured). We ate at 7:00 a.m. and didn’t need to eat anything else until dinnertime.


37 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 17, 2013 at 9:47 am

YUM! What all did they put out for you to eat in those 22 little dishes?


38 Donna May 20, 2013 at 7:31 am

If memory serves me correctly, there were eggs prepared 4 different ways, a small pot of broth with vegetables, 3 dishes with pickled vegetables, at least 2 fish dishes, 2 different kinds of rice, seaweed prepared several different ways, and, obviously, many many more dishes that I’ve forgotten. It was mostly savory, I remember that much, with less emphasis on sweet (and certainly no flour-based dishes!). It looked like a lot when first placed in front of me, but most of the dishes were, literally, just a mouthful of food, and I managed to try a bit of everything.


39 Micah May 17, 2013 at 12:15 pm

While in Thailand, serving with a mission out in the boonies, we were given little fried fish (you’re to eat the head, bones, and all), rice, and green beans. We all ate on the floor, with our hands, and I loved every moment of it. We had that meal twice a day – breakfast and dinner. And I actually came to really like the fish and the green beans for breakfast. The fish was caught fresh every morning as well . . . seems far more healthy than my current breakfast of cereal every morning.


40 Maike May 17, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I am German – so funny to read this. I don’t like German breakfast, I usually skip it. Sometimes I make pancakes or scrambled eggs and beans instead.
My day only starts with a warm meal in my belly and until then I feel hungry. So as much as I love our German bread, it is only a starter for me or an in between snack, but I love how much you love it, especially salami.
It is such a big childhood memory for me and my daughter eats more salami than anything else. Her Irish father has a hard time even looking at all the salami in our fridge, he just thinks it is really odd.


41 yuval May 19, 2013 at 5:52 am

I love a traditional Israeli breakfast: A
big salad work lots of veggies with a lemony vingrett, a cottage or yogurt-y cheese, bread, and egg. All of these are eaten about an hour or two after waking up. In my opinion, the meal can be filling, but not heavy and has lots of great tart flavors.


42 Patricia May 19, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Well for that matter we Dominicans eat big savory breakfasts And they can be dinner interchangeably: cheeses eggs meats and root vegetables like plantains yucca or yamn we also compliment with fresh avocado whenever possible.


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